The family of Nia Wilson revealed funeral arrangements for the slain Oakland teen, along with plans to file a lawsuit against the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency over her brutal murder. The court documents will accuse BART of failing to take security measures that would have prevented Wilson's death, a law firm representing her family announced Wednesday (Aug. 1).
“BART has a legal duty to provide the highest care to protect its passengers from assault,” Arns Law Firm attorneys Robert Arns and Jonathan Davis said in a statement reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. “During a time when the incidence of violent crime in Oakland and the rest of Alameda County is decreasing, violent crime on BART is increasing. BART management has failed to come clean with the public about the dangers riders face every day.”
John Lee Cowell, a 27-year-old parolee who was released from state prison in May on an armed robbery conviction, stabbed Wilson and critically injured her sister, Letifah Wilson, at Oakland’s MacArthur BART station on July 22. Police arrested Wilson a day later, at a BART station in Pleasant Hill, Calif. He faces murder and attempted murder charges.
Cowell was kicked out of a BART station for fair evasion days before he viciously attacked the Wilson sisters. “He should have been stopped at the turnstile on Sunday and on Monday, and his crime was foreseeable and preventable,” the family's lawyer said.
The suit will also request that BART “catch fare evaders in the act,” as well as “implement policies and deploy personnel to effectively deter crime,” and give the public “accurate and up to date information” about criminal activity within its transit system and train stations.
BART responded in a statement expressing condolences to Wilson’s family, without directly addressing the lawsuit. “The murder of Nia Wilson on BART is a tragedy and we continue to extend our deepest condolences to the Wilson family,” BART's chief spokesperson Alicia Trost said. “We are thankful the suspect is in custody due in large part to our surveillance system.”
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our riders and employees. In the last several years BART has launched a multi-prong approach to reduce fare evasion including a new proof of payment ordinance and inspection teams as well as infrastructure changes to make it harder to bypass fare gates.”
BART has installed a “robust network of more than 4,000 surveillance cameras” and increased patrol since Spring 2017,” Trost continued, adding that arrests have “surged” 40 percent in the last year, thanks to officers “being in the right place at the right time.” The statement goes on to note that BART releases crime data that is publicly accessible through “multiple venues.”
A funeral for Wilson will be held Friday (Aug. 3) at East Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church of God in Christ at 11 a.m. local time. The service is open to the public.